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Arthur der Weduwen

Author of The Library: A Fragile History

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Includes the name: Arthur Der Weduwen

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An excellent review of library history.it was well researched and covered the topic pretty thoroughly.
From the vanished Alexandria to the speculative future of libraries in the digital age, with stops to shiver at book burnings through the ages, from the inquisition to the Nazis to modern times.
I felt it was a little too scholarly and dispassionate at times, I’d have liked to hear more of the passion for libraries and books from primary sources.
Still, an excellent all around book
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cspiwak | 11 other reviews | Mar 6, 2024 |
This book was something of a mixed bag for me. However, the parts I liked I found very interesting and well done and the parts I didn’t care for weren’t too onerous.

My main complaint was that this book focused almost exclusively on European, and then later on English and American libraries. There were brief mentions of library history and innovations in other countries but these were comparatively terse and confined to a few throwaway sentences. Someone reading this with no prior background at all would come away thinking libraries were largely a phenomenon confined to the global north and the nebulous and increasingly tenuous “West”. The libraries of ancient and medieval China, or of the early Islamic Caliphs merit scarcely a mention. A genuinely global survey of the history of libraries may well be beyond the scope of this or any single book, but in that case a more fitting title may have been in order. This omission is all the more glaring for the relatively large swathes of ink the author spills on other subjects. Most notably the chapters dealing with the private libraries of Renaissance nobles and Dutch merchants seem to go on in extreme length and detail.

I did really appreciate the author’s thesis statement, that most library destruction is a result of neglect, obviated usefulness, or not meeting the needs of the new generation that inherits them. Library histories tend to focus on the spectacular and purposeful destruction of libraries rather than this more common, if less flashy, cause of library death.

The sections closer to modern times dealing with what we would recognizably see as “public libraries” was fascinating and well done. The author adroitly and convincingly showed the lineage of subscription and circulation libraries through to the modern incarnation of tax payer funded libraries open to all. I wish there had been more time devoted to this historical period and far less spent on an exhaustive cataloging of the book collecting habits of Renaissance.


The author did give a shout out to Better World Books and mentions how he uses it to buy weeded library books at discount rates. This is something I also do! It's a really neat service for both customers and libraries and more people should use it.
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Autolycus21 | 11 other reviews | Oct 10, 2023 |
I rarely give 5-star ratings, but this marvelous book absolutely deserves it. The authors spin a captivating narrative on the developmental history of libraries, leading from personal collections, to government holdings, through subscription and circulating libraries, culminating in the appearance of the true public library. The story is as gripping as any novel, and full of unusual details. It was an absolute pleasure to read, and my copy is well marked up to keep track of the best bits that I know I'll need to draw upon later. Brilliant!… (more)
dono421846 | 11 other reviews | Apr 13, 2023 |
An excellent history of the Library from ancient history to present day; although other reviewers have complained of it being a "dry" read, I did not find that to be the case. The first half of the book focuses on individual collectors and the various 'methods' upon which books were acquired; the latter half of the book deals with the Library as it took on the form of the current institution we know today. At 414 pages it is a rather hefty read, but still very enjoyable especially if you are something of a bibliophile.… (more)
MusicforMovies | 11 other reviews | Jul 26, 2022 |



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